Sierra Nevada x Yen Magazine x Photo Essay and Interview

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Photographed by Cybele Malinowski on Hasselblad X-Pan

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Q&A with Annie Sebel (Yen Mag editor- and childhood ballet buddy)

Best part of Nevada.

The landscape. If you just jump in a car, draw yourself away from the bright lights, booze and gambling, there’s a whole natural world out that that will blow your mind. As soon as you drive away from the strip, and past the bulging urban sprawl you enter a land so beautiful, unusual and varied. Red Rock Canyon is literally a stone’s throw away from a new pop-up suburb on the outskirts of Vegas, but you would’t know. Ribbons of red rust run through the mountain forms, at dusk the ground glows a brilliant amber, releasing the days heat into the sky. As soon as I get to Vegas I get in my hire car and drive any which direction out of there. It’s a new frontier. A very old new frontier.

Worst part of Nevada?

The environmental denial and damage of the city of Las Vegas. It consumes more water than any other city in America, and it’s in the middle of a desert! Complete denial. I mean this is a place that sprays iced water into the air around the swimming pools to keep their clients cool. It just floats up into the 42 degree air and evaporates into nothing. At least Palm Springs (another man-made oasis in the desert) has invested heavily in wind farms to tap into natural environmentally friendly energy.

How do keep something as vast as a desert engaging in your photographs?

Contrast. It’s all about contrast. Even if it is very subtle. After a while, driving through the desert, an abandoned house will pop out, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. Or a lone Joshua tree. Or, the contrast of the vastness and eternalness of nature, vs the tiny but persistent pursuit of man to conquer the wild west.

What catches your eye in Nevada that you don’t see anywhere else?

I fell in love with the landscape straight away. It’s that contrast of man v nature. I have been visiting Vegas almost every year for 6 years since my friend Natalie moved there. I remember the first time I arrived. I wasn’t interested in the lights, the strip- we got in her brand new shiny red porsche, put the roof down and drove into the desert. As we were driving past the endless sprawl of monotonous suburbs, the monumental canyons rose into the sky, the aura of light of Vegas begging for our attention as we drove into a flaming red sunset. It’s that desert, its magical. Every time I fly in or out of Vegas, I will have my camera glued to the plane window, I have watched the suburbs spread like spilled milk even over the past few years. Houses on the perimeter literally back onto the canyons that bound the valley. Land-lcoked. It’s a toy town from up in the air. America’s city of lights, a jewel in the vast desert darkness.

Nevada is famous as the home of the bright lights of Vegas. Is it possible
to separate Nevada from The Strip?

So easily. That’s exactly what Vegas is. Most people fly into Vegas, get shuttled to an air-conditioned biodome, spend a bucket of money and leave. It’s truncated from the surrounds. It’s only rival is Dubai. That’s a whole nother level of environmental denial.

Most people are visitors, in the vicinity for a fleeting moment or a wild weekend. What were the locals like?

The locals are few and far between. Vegas is a transient city. Since 2000 the population has grown by 35%! With 500 000 leaving in that time, it’s a rotisserie role- new breeds of plastic pool waitresses, cute male bartenders, bedazzled performers come and go. My friend’s husband was actually born and bred there, His parents were in the thick of Vegas in the hey day. And you know all those stories you hear? The money, the fame, the drugs, the crime, Scorsesi wasn’t far off the truth in Casino.

We’ve seen your work shooting musicians and models; do you have the same
passion for landscapes or obscure objects?

Yep. Perhaps even more. I love this earth so much. It is filled with secrets. It is so complex, so abstract, so solid, so constant, so transient. So silent and loud. I am only just starting to work out a dialogue with this magical place we all call home. My photographs are a thank you, an appreciation of the world we are slowly killing. Beautiful images of a sad truth.

Where do you go to get the best view of Nevada?

The sky. It is my dream to hire a helicopter for a week and just fly.

What’s the craziest thing you saw on the road?

A desert turtle!

If you could only take one more photograph who or what would it be of?

The Antarctic. Before it melts away.

 

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3 Comments

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The comments regarding the separation of Nevada sans Las Vegas and Las Vegas sums up my memories of visiting.

Loved getting out of Vegas & into the desert. Loathed the dark-cloud-sin-city feeling that smothered Vegas itself.

Absolutely wonderful and like you have been there, great memories of this magical place. Thank you.

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